"I explore the construction of identity through a contemporary female gaze." - Xu Yang

Spanning painting, photography, performance and mixed media, Xu Yang’s practice explores notions of identity, queerness, femininity and fetish. Her work details a personal journey of discovery, inspired by the sudden culture shock she experienced when relocating to London from Zibo, a small city in China’s Shandong province, nine years ago. Having transitioned between two entirely different social contexts, Yang is acutely aware of the plasticity of identity. While living in London, she experienced a period of becoming, affirming her queerness and commencing an art practice predicated on depicting and embodying deliberately, feminised, even fetishized, characters.


Having been raised in an intensely conservative environment, Yang has found artistic and personal solace in portraits of women spanning the history of art. In engaging with these depictions, Yang often finds elements of her own experience reflected back to her. As an individual who has felt confined and silenced by the world around her, she has found a particular affinity with 17th and 18th century women of the French court. In her work, she often mirrors the way in which these women found routes to self-expression and individualised identity through their aesthetic presentation. Allusions to both French Rocco painting and fashions of the period can be found in many of her works. Yang is also greatly influenced by great female artists of the past, who have situated themselves within their work as modes of self-affirmation, such as Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth Le Brun, Angelica Kauffman and Artemisia Gentileschi.


Alongside portraiture and performance, Yang creates highly-detailed and intricate still life works as meditative explorations of identity as expressed through objects. Combining quotidian objects, such as fruits, insects and vermin, with ostentatious symbols of wealth and femininity, such as wigs, tiaras and jewels, Yang creates provocative and dreamlike compositions that hint at the multifaceted nature of her experience and personality. Through the everyday, she alludes to feelings of neglect and invisibility, meanwhile the ornate and bejewelled elements speak to the construction of a specific self-image for the eyes of another.


Across her immensely symbolic and involved practice, Yang consistently engages with the history of European art. Moving between irony, appreciation and aggrandization, and often implementing age-old techniques and materials, Yang’s work imagines new forms of femininity while harking back to paintings of the past and mediating on the experiences of women and queer people through the ages.

Xu Yang (b.1996) is a London-based artist born in Shandong, China. She completed a BA in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Arts in 2018 and an MA Fine Art in painting at Royal College of Art in 2022. She received the Tate Collective Social Commission - LGBTQ History in 2023 and was the winner of Barbican Arts Group Trust’s ArtWorks Open in 2019. She was also the Vice Chairman of the UK-China Photography Association between 2020 – 2021 and is currently a visiting lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
Recent selected solo exhibitions include Imagine Yourself a Warrior (Mou Projects, Hong Kong, China, 2023), Therefore I am (Dio Horia Gallery, Athens, Greece, 2022), For the Sake of Who You Are (Gr Gallery, New York, 2022), Pandora’s Candy Box (Four you Gallery online, 2020) and 100 Carat Diamond (ArtWorks Project Space, Barbican Arts Group Trust, London, 2020).
Recent group exhibitions include: The Object Stares Back (Tube Culture, Milan, Italy, 2023), Position (Alma Pearl Gallery, London, 2023), It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to (Guts Gallery, London, 2023), New Romantics (The Artist Room x Philips, Lee Eugean Gallery, Seoul, 2022), Machines of Desire (Simon Lee Gallery, London and Hong Kong, 2022), Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (180 Strand, London, 2022), Invisible Dragon (Cromwell Place, London, 2021), A Couple Of (Hive Art Centre, ShangHai, China, 2021), Discerning Eye (Mall Gallery, London, 2021), Bums (Dio Horia Gallery, Mikonos, Greece, 2021), 42 Is (42 Space, Beijing, China, 2021), Am I Asking for a Miracles Here? (House of St Barnabas, London, 2021), Transcendental (Cuturi Gallery, Singapore, 2021), Redirecting (Tree Museum, Beijing, China, 2021), Softer Softest (Andrea Festa Fine Art, Rome, Italy, 2020), Twenty Twenty Women (Artisteller, Online, 2020), A Rudimentary Education (Art Lacuna, London, 2020), Wintergreen Boxwood (No 20 Arts, London, 2020) and London Grads Now (Saatchi Gallery, London, 2020).
Her work has also featured at multiple art fairs including Photo London (London, 2021), ASYAAF 2021 Art Fair (Seoul, South Korea, 2021) and Rea! Fair (Milan, Italy, 2020), and she has undertaken residencies such as: Vannucci Artist Residency (Citta Della Pieve, Italy, 2022), Dio Horia Gallery Solo Residency (Athens, 2022) and On the Mountain We Stay supported by No Space (Shandong, China, 2019).